16 December 2012

social commentary Sunday . . . 'tackling the pressure of Christmas'

Seasons Greetings all,
Now I love a good festive activity & grateful exchange of love, stories, family time, however, I’m not religious – Christmas for me is about bringing a year to an end, reflecting, relaxing & raring to go for another year.  Depending on where we’re living & if my husband is home, we might do a fully-sparkling-real-Christmas tree with full decorations; be visiting family interstate; or have a quiet family lunch at home.  We keep the Christmas gifts to a minimum & focus on each child’s birthday as a special time to receive goodies (evenly paced throughout the year!!)  As a newly wed, I diligently hand wrote Christmas cards to everyone we knew, we had a new life in tropical Darwin to share; 2 years later we had a baby to blab about; another 2 years later ‘twins’ to show off; & another 2 years later . . . a fourth child to celebrate . . . that was 2004, the last year I sent cards. I don’t mind the Christmas newsletter email (no paper waste) but please don’t ask me to log onto a website to download your message.
 The pressure to spend – an ill disguised reserve-bank-interest-rate-cut-to-stimulate-the-retail-economy = the message “BLOW it on Christmas shopping” not “save it & pay off your mortgage sooner” as that would be sensible.  My children have never asked for the latest or greatest toy blazoned on the cover of those chain store catalogues.  I love that they have politely suggested they would like activities (books, board games, craft) & equally politely explained to me that clothes don’t count as gifts.  At least they know the difference between needs & wants!!

I don’t mind Christmas carols sung properly. . . sexy Christmas songs make my skin crawl & don’t get me started on sexy elves or a sexy Mrs Claus.  Advent calendars are a fun concept, we had them growing up with a chocolate per day. In Summer??  Molten chocolate welding a cardboard door you can’t open without a box cutter??  I like the new tact clever mums are using with “a family activity suggestion” behind each door, but I’d actually prefer my children to discover “a December chore to complete” . . . it’s bush fire hazard reduction time, school bags need to be emptied & swimming pools are full of Funnel Web Spiders!!    
 So everything is done & dusted, your husband is on leave, children on holidays, you literally have nothing to other than relax - in the cool change of the evening - with some television viewing, only it’s non rating season & it’s all rubbish. Australia has recently gained more channels on free-to-air television . . . unfortunately dedicated to extending home shopping/ sports/ repeats/ news.  Australia has very few Christmas themed movies, they’re ignored anyway, the choices are 1950’s American movie classics or 1990’s jovial ‘unfunny’ versions (complete with snow/ gift panic/ missing reindeer/ alcoholic Santa/ dysfunctional family “reuniting & saving Christmas”, yawn) . . . or be punished with A Christmas Carol, again.  Thank goodness gifts might include board games, books & the wonderful DVD series of your favourite shows!!

I do the Christmas shopping well in advance as I make better gift choices & the retail staff aren’t homicidal from listening to festive music.  The car parks become mine fields & just today at our local shops . . . a toddler was hanging around the top of the escalators, so I ushered him out of the way & tried to identify his mother – who came screaming over like I was a kidnapper.  Well yes, stranger danger but seriously, Mums – watch your children!!  We’ve witnessed a child fall to his death from the top of an escalator at a shopping centre, it happens!!  His mother was distracted. I have noticed - the shops are EMPTY - it’s no wonder gift cards are the hot item, you can’t go wrong & get great value in the sales.  Some argue it's thoughtless & 'just' cash, well, the thrill of Christmas gifts left me when i started earning my own money, mind you, my husband still surprises me, & it's not with a gift card!! 
 Finally, the all-consuming-all-day-lunch . . . my Mummy is English & granted we spent every second Christmas in Europe, so hot turkey, ham, pork, 15 vegetables & a massive pudding seems suitable, so long as we’re running a marathon before dinner, it is freezing Winter outside.  I’ve only ever seen my mother swear & slam the oven door . . . you guessed it . . . on Christmas day.  It was a military operation for her, the dining table was set a week in advance & we’d all have a polishing/ cleaning/ folding/ primping job. We are a large family but the world’s biggest turkey which takes forever to cook . . . why can’t any host born after say 1960 just admit it’s a tough meat to master, swap it for two small turkeys or something they are used to perfecting, like chicken!! Do we really need ham & pork too??  Our family got so big (14 grandchildren) so as my parents got older, even though they had 4 capable married children (8 extra pairs of adults hands) they hired staff to serve us.  We had pork in a Weber BBQ; ham in the kitchen oven & turkey in a commercial oven installed in the old billiard room downstairs, for big catering events. Add to that 22+ people & the fact it’s 35C outside, all we wanted to do was swim!!  Our Christmas lunch commenced with champagne & seafood, however, we’d still be very happy with one meat & sacrifice a dozen vegetables for lunch, so we genuinely had room for pudding served with lashings of brandy butter.  As Mum relaxed with age, she’d let us swim before dessert & also let us help ourselves to cold cuts for dinner, she stopped martyring herself over every detail once she turned about 60.  Hallelujah.  That’s the spirit, friendly & happy. 

 When we build our homestead & have a farm, I imagine we’ll be staying home or hosting Christmas.  Apart from the fact we live 200km from our nearest relative, going away for Christmas is a huge task + horror on the roads.  We will have a traditional roast, perhaps we might raise our own reasonably-sized-turkey or tastey venison, served with seasonal vegetables from the garden & if the children have a specialty dessert or fantastic sauce they make, wonderful!!  Specialty contributions, not strict traditions!!  Just light & happy, with lots of swimming & genuine relaxation, unrushed & truly enjoying each other’s company.

I have never understood the pressure of having to attend lunch with one family & dinner with another, ON Christmas day.  Especially with alcohol flowing freely.  We have already said to our children – there are four of you, you’ll each have partners one day, with their family demands, spend Christmas with them if you wish & Boxing Day or another day in December with us – we are not scoring points on who is with us on the actual 25th of December.  Just remove the pressure & stress off everyone, especially in a large network.  I bet our Christmases as parents of adult children & grandparents will be wonderful celebrations.  
Are you making changes on how to cope with crazy chaotic Christmas??  Love Posie


Melbourne Girl said...

Oh boy do I hear you on this one!!!

We haven't had any pressure about being anywhere on Christmas day...but with a melded family, we've been through the "pressure" of having to be somewhere on Christmas Eve and we refused, despite the nasty letter and insults. My husband works right up to Christmas day and the roads are a nightmare. So, no, we don't go anywhere Christmas Eve.

As for Christmas day, I like to keep it simple and hassle free, so we have everyone over for dinner the weekend before Christmas...that way no hassle, no pressure, no expectations. Much better that way

Oh....and strangely...the kidlets love getting clothes from me for Chrissy...each to their own I guess...


The Accidental Housewife said...

I love your social commentaries! (Sorry I haven't commented so often recently.) My side of the family is very relaxed about Christmas, so much so that last time they served nothing but COLD chicken and couscous. My poor traditionalist husband was so upset he almost started crying - what a Waste Of A Christmas! His family go the whole hog (and turkey and chicken and roast veggies.) I think there must be a middle ground, and I'm trying to reach it this year - we'll go to my mums, but I'm bringing a huge ham!

Brenda @ 13 Acres said...

wow great summary of the politics of Christmas! We are all about the simple Christmas - the fun the enjoyment. My kids ask for very little and don't get persuaded at all by all the marketing hype. I love to cook but plan a relatively relaxed and weather appropriate meal. The big thing is spreading the love...we are doing christmas Eve with my family and Christmas day with my hubby's so it's calm and no rushing....next year it may swap or I may host (in my new farm home) and it's all welcome! We've done so many handmade gifts this year and the bought items were done early...it's now time to relax!!! lovely post as always Jennie x

Anne said...

I think last year Xmas was preparing me for this year. Our son (RAAF based in Canberra ) had to work and for the first time we didn't have all our kids home. This year he has just landed in Copenhagen prior to doing a contiki tour across Europe for the next month and yes, I'm slightly jealous :).
We started our traveling adventure in October and are presently working near Menindee Lakes. Our daughter and her boyfriend are traveling to Adelaide to have Xmas eve and Xmas morning with no 1 son because his girlfriend will be working part of the day. So our own plans have to be fluid because we may only have Xmas day off.
So I plan to be grateful in the future whenever we are all able to spend time together and not get caught up in 'having to have it all'

Anonymous said...

Love your work Posie, so similar, have told the kids that their bdays are more important than Xmas especially as Little Bits is Tuesday, and that traditions can be changed and everyone can contribute to this family time of celebrating the year gone and the excitement of the year ahead..I do love a gift card though...lol...

Nancy said...

You are so wise - Christmas is a lovely day, but not worth ruining family relationships, your VISA card and your sanity all in the effort to fine the perfect gift. I have to say I was like your mother - motivated to cook the perfect meal, find the perfect gift but as the years have passed by I am no longer going that route. This year I am putting a list on the fridge (we do a big meal because it is winter here) and each person has to sign up for a section. I figured that out when on Thanksgiving my husband and daughter cooked the turkey (I had an arm in a cast ;). It was the best one I have ever eaten. And honoring birthdays - I think that is a great idea (though I should have been more thoughtful - I have 2 - 3 years apart on Mar 10 and one on Feb 21st). Have a wonderful Christmas and I wonder what you will post for New Years....

ally said...

We've worked hard on extending our Christmas celebrations to reduce the stress on the actual day - a bit before, a bit after - makes it last longer :-)
My children disagree about the clothes too - they love getting some special bits as gifts
I just love a surprise!!

Sally said...

This year we're cooking our big meal for Christmas Eve so that we can eat left overs on Christmas Day and have loads and loads of time to play toys, watch DVDs and go to the beach. Better to eat a big meal at night with a few drinks than in the middle of the day with children who'd rather swim and play toys.